Written by Dyami Millarson
Speaking with a highly traditional Dutch accent helps me acquire foreign languages. When I was younger, I used to speak with a more modern Dutch accent. However, as I started learning foreign languages intensively from early adolescence, I started noticing all sounds around me and this enabled me to adopt others’ accent with perfection. I became aware of minute accent differences in Dutch, even in my own family. Since I felt the need to focus on pronunciation while studying foreign languages, I came to the realisation that I was hearing elder speakers of Dutch produce the same sounds as I heard in foreign languages, and this prompted me to adopt said sounds in my Dutch. This continued until the transition was complete and I had learned to speak a traditional Dutch accent. I had changed my accent completely to suit my needs of language-learning, and changing my accent in itself was an interesting exercise for me.
I changed my English accent as well. So both my Dutch and English accents are no longer the same as those of my pre-adolescent years. I have a traditional British English accent now and a traditional Dutch accent. As access to 19th-century materials on pronunciation increased in my adolescent years with the advent of Google Books, I soon gained more knowledge about the old accent of the Dutch and British ancestors. With my increasing knowledge of pronunciation, I found myself capable of using the 19th-century materials to reproduce the old 19th-century accents of Dutch and (British) English. My interest in the reconstruction of old pronunciation had increased, as I was on a quest to acquire the most traditional Dutch and British English accents by using 19th-century notes on pronunciation and using my own observations of what I had heard from elder speakers in daily life and old recordings. I reached my aim by adopting the eldest sounds, and this often coincided with my goal to adopt sounds that are useful for learning foreign languages.
My adolescent aspiration of accent change in both Dutch and English proved a relevant pronunciation experiment, for I had to analyse and re-learn my own languages as foreign languages, which led me to the realisation that we can become native in any accent we wish and by extension we can become native in any language we wish. It took a lot of dedication to change my accent in both English and Dutch, but it is a character trait of mine to never give up, because defeat is unfathomable to me and glorious victory is the only image I hold in my mind, which conjures up a medieval-themed fantasy world that I created when I played with Lego as a toddler (I like holding on to my old original self and my innocent childhood fantasy world, since it inspires me to perform great deeds in real life). My natural sentiment is that once I start something, I must finish it. This has helped me significantly with studying languages, and it has helped me with changing my accent in Dutch and English. People laughed at me, but I never gave up and I kept on speaking with my ‘weird’ accents, because I knew the final result would be perfect and my heart desired to demonstrate that the final result would look completely natural. It was an experiment that defined my life, and its success would determine the rest of my life, for I overcame myself and I acquired traditional accents that help me learn foreign languages up to this day. I was reborn by gaining fluency in accents that I had not spoken from birth.